PAUSE IT: What do you see? There’s an air of suspense as a woman (Kaarina Hazard) grapples with a home intruder (Jukka Keinonen) in director Klaus Härö’s Letters to Father Jacob (2009). A newly released convicted murderer, Leila clasps her hand tightly over his mouth to prevent him from crying out. Such is her skill and brute force that we recognize that she has done this before. In the next room over, Father Jacob (Heikki Nousiainen), the titular blind priest who has taken pity on the ex-convict and allowed her to stay with him as his letter-writing assistant, is unaware of the brawl. But will he find out? This scene provides a great example of how best to use suspense to heighten a story. What will happen once Father Jacob overhears the ruckus? Suspense is the feeling that we as an audience have when we are privy to a piece of information that an onscreen character remains unaware of. Suspense has been used by storytelling masters from Cronenberg and Haneke to Clouzot, and perhaps most famously Hitchcock himself, but here we get a more subtle and unexpected approach, in a film that is not ostensibly an overt thriller, but rather an intimate character drama. When Father Jacob exits his room to investigate the noise he has overheard, as viewers we hold our collective breaths. We wonder whether or not he will discover the skirmish that is taking place unbeknownst to him in his own home. An excellent watch, if you’re interested in diving deeper into international cinema in 2018, be sure to give Letters to Father Jacob a try.    

Letters to Father Jacob (2009)
Director:  Klaus Härö
Cast: Kaarina Hazard, Heikki Nousiainen, Jukka Keinonen
Cinematography by: Tuomo Hutri
Available from Olive Films on DVD.